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Sri Aurobindo

Bande Mataram

Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908

Bande Mataram. July 2, 1907

The Acclamation of the House

A great deal is being made in the Anglo-Indian press of the unanimous appreciation with which the House of Commons received Mr. Morley's speech on the Budget. The discovery that superior culture has not destroyed the primitive savage in the Anglo-Saxon has been welcomed with fierce gratification. One English paper writes: “It was a healthy sign to which the attention of native sedition-mongers may be usefully directed that the House of Commons which gave an appreciative reception to the speech of the Secretary of State showed impatience at the captious and mischievous vapourings of Mr. C. J. O'Donnell.” Well, but why draw attention to it? We have been arguing the same thing from the very beginning of our propaganda. We were among the first to point out to a too credulous nation that the friends of India in Parliament represented nobody but themselves. It was one of the principal items on the destructive side of the Nationalist programme, to prove the delusiveness of the prevalent faith in the ultimate sense of justice of the British people. If the House of Commons saves us the trouble of farther argument and itself conclusively proves the soundness of our reasoning, we accept its assistance with gratitude but without surprise. We may draw the attention of our monitor in return to an equally healthy sign in India. Nobody now, at least in Bengal, ventures in public to advocate an appeal to the bureaucracy or to the people in England for the redress of our grievances. There may not be agreement as to the best means of gathering strength by self-help but the hope of gaining rights and privileges by what is known as constitutional agitation has been given up by one and all. It is a faded superstition which has no longer any hold on the Indian mind. To warn us that the highly illiberal speech of Mr. Morley struck a responsive chord in every bosom in the House is therefore labour wasted. As nobody now looks with wistful eyes to that quarter, it is immaterial what they think or do. They may go into ecstasies over the speech of Morley, or they may gnash their teeth at the vapourings of O'Donnell; we in India are no longer affected by their frown or by their smile. The sympathy of people beyond the seas is no longer our guiding star and what happens at Westminster is no concern of ours. We have to improvise our own means of meeting the Regulation lathi and other bureaucratic means of repression and we neither hope for nor desire its mitigation.

If it were possible for anyone to re-evoke that dead phantom of a phantom, British sympathy, we should not be grateful to him for constraining our unbound spirit into bonds again. The legend of British sympathy misled us for a century and now that the phantasm has of itself ceased to haunt us, let no one try to juggle and deceive us again with the Mantras of that modern black art. Both Mr. Morley's speech and its effect on the British people are, we repeat, matters of supreme indifference to us, and the British and Anglo-Indian journals who want to frighten us into our old mendicant attitude by trumpeting the “sensible and resolute speech” of Mr. Morley and the appreciation it received in the House, merely show that they have no true conception of the Nationalist movement. The mind of our people has at last attained a certain amount of freedom. Faith in unrealities no longer clogs its progress. The Budget speech admirably exposed the true relation between England and India and betrayed the hollowness of the so-called liberal professions which have so long exerted their poisonous influence on the unsophisticated Indian mind, displaced as it was from its own orbit by an un-national education. Mr. Morley's outspokenness was welcome to the House? Well, it was tenfold more welcome to his “enemies” in India. Mr. Lalmohan Ghose in one of his more recent speeches, has said: “Dazzled by the meretricious glitter of a tawdry imperialism, conspicuous members of Parliament are now trying to sponge from their slate the teachings of men like Gladstone and Bright.” It was reserved for Mr. Morley to tell all India what some of us had perceived long ago, that those teachings were never meant to be carried out in practice.

Whoever is a scourge of India must naturally be a demigod to the British people. The political instinct of a free people long accustomed to the international struggle for life, shrewd, commercial, practical, is not likely to be misled by humanitarian generalities as the politically inexperienced middle class in India have been misled; they have always felt that the man who trod down India under a mailed heel and crushed Indian manhood and aspiration was serving their own interests.

The sequel to the trial of Warren Hastings is an excellent example of this dominant instinct. Twenty-seven years after the impeachment, sixteen years after the death of Burke had left his orations as a classic to English literature, a scene was enacted in the House of Commons similar in spirit to the unanimous acclamation of Mr. Morley's speech. Warren Hastings an old man of eighty appeared at the bar to give evidence in connection with the renewal of the East India Charter. He was received with acclamations, a chair was ordered for him, and when he retired the members rose and uncovered. The political instinct of the people perceived that this man, ruthless and monstrous tyrant though he had been, had consolidated for them a political Empire and basis1 of commercial supremacy, and the means by which this great work had been accomplished, were sanctified by the result. The scourge of India, a recital of whose misdeeds had 27 years before made some of Burke's listeners swoon with horror, was honoured as a hero and god, and biographies and histories have been written by the score to justify his action and exalt him to the skies. When therefore Mr. Morley declared his intention of preserving the Empire Hastings had consolidated, by any means however unjust or tyrannical, is it any wonder that an English House of Commons should recognise in him a worthy successor of Hastings and accord to him an unanimous applause?

 

Later edition of this work: The Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo.- Set in 37 volumes.- Volumes 6-7.- Bande Mataram: Political Writings and Speeches. 18901908 .- Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 2002.- 1182 p.

1 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: and a basis

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